'Historic opportunity' to shape blueprint for democratic reform

By staff writers
January 8, 2010

Two hundred people from across the UK will meet in London this weekend to debate ideas for cleaning up politics submitted by thousands of people as part of the Power2010 campaign of which Ekklesia is a part.

Using the ‘Deliberative Poll’ process devised by the American deliberative democracy expert, Professor James Fishkin, participants will discuss the public’s suggestions for cleaning up politics: including changes to the voting system, making MPs more accountable and greater devolution.

The 200 citizens, scientifically chosen to represent the UK as a whole in demographics and attitudes, will debate and define a manifesto for democratic reform, based on almost 4,500 submissions by the public to the Power2010 website during the last three months.

Pam Giddy, Director of Power2010 said: “With the general election fast approaching, our political leaders will no doubt talk about ‘cleaning up politics’ and making our political system more open and transparent. But we’ve heard it all before. For the past 20 years, politicians have promised to give power back to the people but any steps to do so have been at best piecemeal.

“We know there is public appetite for change – and the recent MPs' expenses scandal has only served to rile people even more."

Thousands of people have submitted their ideas for change to the Power2010 website and more than 10,000 people have already signed up to back the campaign.

"This weekend marks a significant step to fixing our broken politics; by giving people the chance to tell MPs – the very people who represent them – what they want to see changed”, Giddy continued.

Professor James Fishkin and his colleagues at Stanford University have overseen preparations for the national ‘Deliberative Poll’, helping participants to draw up a short list of democratic reforms.

Once agreed, they will be put to a public vote from Monday 18 January. The top ideas as voted for by the public will be put to all election candidates, with the aim of them committing to make the next Parliament a reforming one.

Professor Fishkin, author of When the People Speak: Deliberative Democracy and Public Consultation, said: “The Deliberative Poll allows participants to thoroughly explore the issues, get their questions answered by competing experts and come to a considered judgment. It has the representativeness of scientific samples but the depth of analysis that comes from hours of discussion.

"For serious problems we need the public’s input beyond their impression of sound bites in ordinary polls. And what better issue to discuss than democracy and the political system – which is crying out for the public voice?

More than 50 Deliberative Polls have taken place across the world - to elect candidates in primaries (Greece) or recommend policy decisions (China, Brazil, Texas, Poland, Italy, Canada and Argentina).

All participants will complete a questionnaire at the beginning and end of the weekend, to reflect how the process of discussion with peers has helped to shape their priorities. The final shortlist of public recommendations for democratic reform will be released in the following week.

Keywords:power 2010
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